It just seems like the news hasn’t stopped coming in for the Cincinnati Reds since the season ended. First it was announced that Turner Ward wouldn’t return as the hitting coach next season. Then the team announced that it had hired Kyle Boddy to be their new minor league pitching coordinator, and expand that role to also include their director of pitching initiatives.
Then it was reported by Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Reds are expecting to raise payroll for 2020. President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams had this to say about the payroll:
I believe we’ll have more financial resources at our disposal.
We don’t comment on the specifics of payroll, but directionally, we are going to continue to build and invest in this team and have more financial resources available for us. Our payroll will be bigger this year.
How much the Reds will expand their payroll by is a question that we simply don’t have an answer to right now. But we do know that the payroll this season was $130M. And we know, roughly, what the Reds have on the books for next year – sort of.
Five players already have their salaries set for 2020. Joey Votto, Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suarez, Raisel Iglesias, and Tucker Barnhart are under contract for set amounts. They will make a combined $57.65M in 2020. The rest of the team will either make the league minimum for their service time, or will be going through arbitration.
Let’s take a look at the players who will be hitting arbitration: Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Kevin Gausman, and Derek Dietrich are all entering their final years of arbitration. Jose Peraza and Curt Casali will be entering their second year of arbitration. Scott Schebler and Matt Bowman will all be heading there for the first time.
The big number here will come for Trevor Bauer. He made $13M this year and is likely to get a raise. Anthony DeSclafani could get a decent raise, too, given the season he’s coming off of as a starting pitcher. Kevin Gausman is another interesting case. He made just over $9M this past season. For Cincinnati, though, they used him as a reliever. Even with a down season, he will probably get a raise. That seems awfully expensive for a reliever given the market. There’s probably a decent chance he is non-tendered. If the organization is really worried about their rotation, then perhaps they keep him around and pay him – but that’s an expensive insurance plan.
For Michael Lorenzen we’re probably talking about a solid raise, but given that he made just under $2M last year, it won’t be that big. And then there’s Derek Dietrich, who feels like a player that they might non-tender instead of go to arbitration with.
Jose Peraza, despite seemingly being given plenty of room to show something in late 2019, simply hasn’t performed. He posted a 62 OPS+ this season. He’s Billy Hamilton without the baserunning or defense. I would not be shocked if the team non-tendered him. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept him around, either. He made $2.775M in 2019. It’s incredibly rare for a player to not get a raise in arbitration, even if they perform terribly. Curt Casali should get a small raise from the sub $1M mark he made last year. Scott Schebler may wind up as a non-tender candidate after the season he just put up, while also trying to come off of shoulder surgery. Matt Bowman is probably going to be sticking around and getting a small bump in salary from his league minimum mark he had in 2019.
If we just make some assumptions on the raises guys get in arbitration, we can reasonably assume that at most the Reds payroll will be at $110M before any free agency or trades happen. And that’s if they keep guys like Gausman, Peraza, Dietrich, and Schebler around rather than non-tender them. The Cincinnati Reds should have $30+M to spend this offseason for the 2020 campaign. And really, it should be significantly more than that. If the Reds are going to raise payroll and shoot for the playoffs, like Dick Williams says, then raise the payroll to $150M. Maybe raise it more. Actually go for it.
Chad Dotson made an interesting observation on twitter last night about the article and quotes, though:
On the other hand, there’s also the same “market size” stuff they’ve been feeding us for years.
— Chad Dotson (@dotsonc) October 2, 2019
The Cincinnati Reds do have a smaller market than any other team except the Milwaukee Brewers. So yes, they are not working with the same situation as the Dodgers or Yankees. But the Reds ownership group is made up of 19 very rich people who bought the organization 14 years ago and have watched it grow in value by $800,000,000 in that time. I don’t want to hear “small market” when the organization has a value over a billion dollars.
If the team is going to say things like this:
The goal for us now, all we’re talking about is the postseason,” Williams said. “That’s what matters. That’s the goal next year. It’s not taking incremental steps in a rebuild. It’s about the postseason.
Well, then go do it. It’s clear that the Reds are operating differently than they used to. Between the front office shuffle, to the trades last offseason to improve the roster – it’s different. It may not have worked out as hoped for either the front office, the players, or even the fans in 2019 – but the operations are very different. This organization has avoided free agency like the plague for the last two decades. Let’s hope they operate differently this offseason and once again show that things are actually changing.
The original article failed to mention Kevin Gausman and has since been updated.